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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Generation Y in the Vapid of Space

It's been a while since I came across something this funny. Here is a presentation, published on the www.nasa.gov site, “Generation Y Perspectives” [PDF] prepared by four members of said generation (who, like their congeners, appear to have only first names, although one complete name can be deduced from the PDF file name, and the others are disclosed here), which, according to NASA Watch “made it all the way up to the Administrator's desk”—nice to know the administrator has plenty of time for such mission critical matters.

In the presentation, they indict NASA for “not engaging Generation Y” (slide 51, red type in the original) by failing to “connect” to their generation's defining characteristics born of their “life experiences” including having “a short-term career perspective” and being “easily bored” (slide 45). Just the kind of folks who solved problems like the combustion instability in the F-1 engine when NASA was young! This is perhaps the most vapid document I have seen posted on a U.S. government Web site, and that's saying something.

The creators of this presentation see their generation defined, and NASA's future lying, in a collection of logos representing ephemeral ventures created by their elders (slides 20 and 65), believe that watching TALK SHOWS and REALITY TV (slide 37, all caps in the original—I cannot bear to reproduce the red type again) means that, for them, “TV is not passive entertainment[;] it is an interactive experience!” which has shaped their “lives and outlooks” (slide 38), and that an “innovative, collaborative, participatory NASA” (slide 69) would generate such headlines as “NASA switches back to Macs” (slide 72)—yeah, that'll do it—taxpayers are going to write their congressbeings to urge picking their pockets for more space boondoggles because NASA uses cool computers.

As one who “engages” with this generation all the time via the feedback messages they send me and the comments they post on Web sites I read, I don't find this all that surprising, but you may. And keep in mind when reading it, as when reading comments on Slashdot, that these are the technological élite of the generation which will replace us as we scroll off the screen. Yikes. The editorial in the February 2nd, 1987 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology urged that “NASA should not be allowed to operate in a vacuum.” If this is the kind of advice its administrator is seriously pondering, I couldn't agree more.

Posted at March 12, 2008 21:12